So what’s the compromise, exactly? Doing nothing? MPR’s Tom Scheck says, “With a week left to go in Minnesota’s legislative session, the prospects for a major transportation funding plan may be dimming. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said he’s willing to drop his push for a transportation funding bill that relies on a gas tax and a sales tax throughout the Twin-Cities metro area. But Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he would only step away from his focus on transportation if House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, drops his push for $2 billion in tax cuts.”
Exhibit ‘A’ of the nothing option. In a Strib commentary, DFL Sen. Matt Schmit writes, “Communities across Minnesota have been pleading for a renewed, if not expanded, state effort toward extending high-speed Internet access. But this Legislature doesn’t appear to be receiving the message. By now, we all know the facts: Twenty percent of Minnesota homes lack wireline broadband at our modest state speed goal of 10 megabits per second (mbps) for downloads and 5 mbps for uploads. Nearly 40 percent of homes in Greater Minnesota miss the mark. … this Legislature isn’t taking the challenge seriously. Instead, the Senate is proposing a 15 percent cut to the matching-grant program; the House proposes a 60 percent cut. Minnesota didn’t make a big splash by allocating significant resources to its fund; after all, New York devoted $500 million to its upstate effort. Instead, we settled for building the fund slowly — but now even that approach appears in doubt.” Remind me, which party was claiming to be the champion of outstate? Neither?
I don’t believe ticks count as an “invasive species.” The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram alerts readers that, “Results of the first year of a three-year study of ticks at two popular Eau Claire County parks show visitors should be wary. Interns started checking ticks in late May of 2014. Of the 68 ticks at Big Falls County Park from last spring to fall, 46 percent were found to carry Lyme disease. Shane Sanderson, environmental health director for the Eau Claire City-County Health Department, who is coordinating the study, said he didn’t expect that many ticks.”
Thank you all for your generosity. The Strib story, by Ricardo Lopez, on April’s tax haul, says, “Net Minnesota tax collections were $2.47 billion in April, up nearly 12 percent from officials’ projections in February, the Minnesota Management and Budget Office (MMB) reported Monday. Revenues collected from individual income taxes, exceeded expectations, generating $1.85 billion, about $265 million more than previously forecast. Revenue from corporate franchise taxes were down $13 million from previous projections.”
A story from the Forum News Service: “Two women are dead after being consumed in a hog barn fire near Jasper in southwest Minnesota on Monday morning. Sharla Drew, 50, and Kristy Giesler, 32, both of Jasper, died when a barn the two were inside caught on fire. A statement from the Rock County sheriff’s office said employees of the farm were pressure-washing inside the barn when the fire started.”
I’m half expecting Ford to bring back the Excursion. Says Adam Belz of the Strib, “Big vehicles are back in the driver’s seat at Minnesota auto dealerships. Vehicle sales in Minnesota rose a modest 4.6 percent in 2014 after a strong 2013 and lower gas prices shaped the market. Sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles jumped solidly, while sales of cars, including hybrids, dropped. ‘Our Focus sales are off and our trucking and SUV sales are up,’ said Chuck Emick, director of sales and finance at Inver Grove Ford-Lincoln. Across the state, nearly seven in ten new vehicles sold in 2014 was a truck or SUV.” It’ll be quite the glut on the used car market when oil bounces back to $110 a barrel.
Progress, maybe not. Karen Herzog of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says, “Authority over a decades-old agreement that allows college students from Minnesota and Wisconsin to avoid paying nonresident tuition when they cross the border to attend a public school is up for grabs Tuesday in the Legislature’s powerful budget-writing Joint Finance Committee. At stake is who has authority to continue negotiating with Minnesota the terms of the reciprocity agreement, and who gets roughly $5.8 million netted by Wisconsin after payments are exchanged between the two states. If the UW System gained authority to negotiate with Minnesota and administer the agreement, it potentially could keep that money on campuses that educate the Minnesota students.” Naturally, Gov. Walker has a big hand in this.
The Strib editorial board amuses itself with polling via the conservative Center of the American Experiment. “A majority of Minnesotans don’t want to pay higher gas taxes, the Minneapolis-based, right-leaning Center of the American Experiment announced last week as it trumpeted the results of an April 26-28 poll of 500 Minnesotans. We’re not surprised. When asked whether they want to pay more taxes for any purpose, most people’s knee-jerk response is ‘no.’ In fact, it’s remarkable that 29 percent of those polled said yes to a higher gas tax, given that the question asked by pollster Meeting Street Research advised respondents that some Minnesota legislators say existing taxes are sufficient to do the transportation job. Independent experts say they aren’t, but that assessment was not shared with those polled.” What do trial lawyers always say? “Never ask a question if you don’t know the answer.”
According to the Strib’s Mark Brunswick, the VA can’t even do itself a favor. “Two VA Inspector General reports involving complaints about Minnesota facilities were part of a large number of investigative results recently made public by the VA. The state cases involved St. Cloud and Rochester. In one case, a 2011 complaint about the St. Cloud’s PTSD program was administratively closed. In the second, a 2013 report found that a complaint about safety and management issues at a Rochester community clinic were unfounded and any issues had been correctly addressed. In both cases, the VA facilities were largely cleared of any wrongdoing, and that would normally be seen as a good thing. But both reports weren’t released until USA Today reported that the VA’s Office of Inspector General had not made public the findings of as many as 140 health care probes since 2006.”
A partisan election bill? I could not be more shocked! Don Davis for the Forum News Service says, “Minnesota senators debated election legislation Monday like they debate issues during campaigns: dividing along party lines. The Democrat-controlled Senate approved 39-28 a bill to allow mail balloting in small cities and townships, expand voting before Election Day and let felons vote once released from prison.”
Today in entrepreneurship. Bill Catlin at MPR reports, “A federal grand jury in Ohio has indicted a Minnesota company and three California men alleging they ran what prosecutors call a ‘massive prescription drug diversion scheme.’ According to the charges, from 2007 through April 2014, David Miller and his company, Minnesota Independent Cooperative (MIC) in Eagan, bought prescription drugs from a network of illegal and unlicensed sources in New York, Florida and California. The 12-count indictment accuses Miller and MIC of Transportation to wholesalers and retail pharmacies in nearly 40 states.”